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Tanzania: Taxes and Business Etiquette

Are you one of the many expats working in Tanzania for companies in various economic sectors or for an international organization or NGO? Expats about to begin working in Tanzania will find information on the economy, main sectors, the job search, social and business etiquette, and more in this guide.
Tanzanian women tend to dress very modestly, especially on Zanzibar.

Taxes and Social Security: A Slightly Confusing System

Legal residents of Tanzania who are present in the country for 183 days or more in one calendar year must pay taxes in Tanzania on their worldwide income. The amount of income tax you will have to pay ranges from 0% to 30%, depending on your income. If you are an employee, taxes will be deducted directly from your paycheck.

Social security and public health insurance contributions may also be deducted from you paycheck. Making contributions to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is mandatory for all employees. Both you and your employer must contribute 10% of your gross salary to the NSSF. Check with your employer before you sign your contract for more information on what exactly will be deducted from your paycheck. Even if you are contributing to the NSSF, you will probably want to make additional payments into a private retirement savings account.

The Dos and Don’ts of Social and Business Etiquette

Tanzania is still a very traditional male-dominated society. Traditional social customs and taboos are much stronger in rural areas than urban ones. It is common to see two men holding hands in public. This is a sign of friendship, rather than of sexual preference. Homosexuality is still a taboo in Tanzania.

Although expat women will generally not be held to the same standards as locals, it is respectful to dress modestly, especially in Muslim areas such as Zanzibar. Wearing shorts is never appropriate for men or women at any time. During Ramadan, you should try to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public.

Business Meetings

A handshake or bow is usually an appropriate greeting in Tanzania. If a Muslim man greets a woman, a bow is appropriate; non-Muslim men should wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Greetings in Tanzania are very important and should not be rushed. Take a few minutes to make small talk. Good topics include family and work.

When you do get down to business, don’t be too direct. Tanzanians equate directness with rudeness. If they want to ask for help, for example, they would tell you a story about their recent problems, from which you could infer what they really want from you. Along with not being too direct, the ability to control one’s temper and emotions in public is greatly valued. Building humor and jokes into a conversation is often a good communication technique.

Punctuality is usually not a big priority among Tanzanians. Those used to working with expats will try to make an effort to be on time, but you should not show your frustration if they are late. In big cities, traffic congestion often makes it very difficult to schedule an exact time for a meeting to begin.

More Helpful Tips

Here are some additional etiquette tips to ensure your smooth transition into Tanzanian culture:

  • Don’t use your left hand for anything, including picking out fruits and vegetables at the market.
  • Never beckon for someone to come to you with your palm facing upwards. This is only used for animals. You should instead hold your hand with the palm facing down and make a scratching motion with your fingers.
  • Wearing camouflage clothing in public is illegal. You will be fined by the police and asked to change.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Gilberto Vieira

"Finding contacts among the expats in Tanzania's tourism industry wasn't half as difficult as I had feared. "

Chen Ming

"Karibu Sana, fellow expats in Dar es Salaam or 'Dar', for short! You'll probably need some tips on the 'do's & 'don't's in Tanzania."

Global Expat Guide